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How International Packers Fans Watch Football, Part 1

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The Packers have one of the largest fan bases here in the U.S., but their fans expand much farther than just Wisconsin. We ask seven fans from outside the United States about their football fandom.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

For many of us (especially us who live in the wonderful state of Wisconsin), watching Green Bay Packers games during the NFL season is simple: wake up, assemble a morning or afternoon/early evening meal, and flip on the television. Watching football here in the U.S. is very convenient, but for those outside the U.S., it isn't always the same. For this article, we wanted to check-in and see how Packers fans outside our country go about keeping up with the team, and how they keep up with NFL football in general.

We were able to get in contact with seven Packers fans from across the globe outside the U.S. and panel them on how they keep up with Packers even though they're oceans (or borders) away. The only requirement for each person was that they give their first and last name, along with the country they currently reside in. Since this Q&A became so widespread, we split it into two separate articles for convenience.The second part of this discussion will be posted shortly.

Without further ado, here is the list of fans that we assembled for the panel along with the country are located in. If you have any follow up questions for a specific person, you may click on their individual name and it will head to his or her Twitter account:

Mark Gudgeon, London, England
Adam Nicholls, Weston Super Mare, England
Mauricio Torales, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Wayne Scullino, Sydney, Australia
Joanna Meilleur, London, Ontario, Canada
Andrew Vavasour, St. John's, Canada
Mark Tone, Toronto, Canada

APC: When it comes to football in general, how did you first gain interest in the sport itself?

Gudgeon: I was seven-years-old when Channel 4 started televising the NFL in 1982 (a one-hour highlight show on Sunday evenings showing one of the best games from the previous week). I was pretty much hooked from the beginning. The combination of the action, collisions, the presentation and the stats (I was a very geeky seven-year-old).

Nicholls: The short answer is through my parents' encouragement which is also behind my answer to question two. The NFL first came to prominence in England when Channel 4 started to show an hour long highlights show each week plus the Super Bowl live and with the NFL sending over the American Bowl preseason games.

Meilleur: I was brought up on hockey and maple syrup. I met my Wisconsin-born husband 15 years ago and quickly realized that my hockey watching days were over. He introduced me to the NFL. I admit that it took me a while to understand that football was a game of strategy and not just fat guys pushing each other over, but once I did, I quickly became a rabid fan.

Torales: Well, the first time was maybe 2002, or ‘03. I watched ESPN for Latin America for a game between Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots and I began curious to understand the game, the defense, special teams, etc.

Vavasour: I started watching football in high school. There is no competitive football where I live and absolutely no local coverage. In Canada, we have a TV station very similar to ESPN (editor's note: it's TSN, and even has a program called "SportsCentre"). In the early-mid 90's, more and more coverage was devoted to the NFL which got me interested.

Scullino: There was a regular television show on the weekends called Sportsworld. It went for five hours on a Sunday, and for five or 10 minutes, toward the end of the program, they would show American sports (NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL). At only 12 or 13 years of age I was fascinated by the NFL because of the helmets, the padding, the indoor domes, Astroturf and cheerleaders. It was like nothing I had ever seen before.

Tone: Sports is like a religion in my family. Football is just another chapter in the book.

APC: How long have you been a fan of the Packers? What made you become a fan?

Gudgeon: I *think* the first game I saw was THAT Packers-Redskins game from 1982 (editor's note: for clarification, we think this was referring to the Packers' absurd 48-47 victory on Monday Night Football in 1983). That Packers team had a great offence and I loved the name. After reading up a bit on the Packers history/ownership in a monthly NFL magazine, I knew they were my team.

Nicholls: I am 31, so 29 years. I joke that I was born a Cheesehead because my favorite food is cheese. Short aside, when the NFL first was shown over here, they used to sell an American Football Annual by Ken Thomas. Inside the cover there was a map of the states with all the teams' helmets and names over where they are located. My parents got me to say the team names to help me learn to talk, so they would say Miami and I would say Dolphins for example.

Why the Packers though? Well as I was a child it was really an immature reason, my dad is a Bears fan, so I picked their main rivals. He got to see a title in his first season of fandom but nothing since.

Meilleur: I've been a Packer fan for 15 years. I love that the team is community owned. I love the world-wide team spirit. I loved that when I visited Green Bay, everyone was wearing Packer gear - that it was normal! I love the sense of family that the Packers embrace and how they give back to their fans.

Torales: Since 2004 I started watching NFC games because before that year at ESPN, Latin America only broadcasted AFC games. I like the fans of Green Bay Packers (always a full house) the history of the team, and with Brett Favre as QB, I simply started to become a Packer fan.

Vavasour: Around the same time of my growing interest in the NFL, it just so happened to coincide with the peak of Favre's MVP run and those outstanding mid-90's Packers teams. I loved how Brett played the game and found myself cheering for the Packers. With my friends it seemed everyone was either Cowboys, Packers or 49ers fans. Which were the top teams of that era.

Scullino: Since Don Majkowski's 10-6 season. A friend at high school (I was in year seven, had a neighbor who had just spent six months in the U.S.) brought home with him a VHS of the Packers/Vikings at Milwaukee County Stadium. It was the first full-length football game I had ever seen. What's more, it featured teams that weren't from big cities such as New York, San Francisco, Dallas, Miami, etc. I was absolutely hooked. The Packers won that game. For the reason, and the fact that I learned they were from a small town -- and very much a David vs. Goliath story -- did I fall in love with it right there and then.

Tone: I've been a fan of the Packers for over 20 years. I became a fan because of the logo first before I knew a name of a single player on the team when I was around 10-years-old. Then when Brett Favre went on the MVP run, I was at age where I could understand the game better.

APC: In your respective country, how is football viewed by most people you know?

Gudgeon: Most people are at least slightly aware of it and there is a very solid amount of hard-core fans who will tune in to Sky TV's weekly show (they broadcast two live games every Sunday evening). Plus there are enough fans to fill Wembley Stadium 2-3 times each year. The International Series games are great. It's more a celebration of the NFL than a partisan support for the 'home' team. Last year I think I saw jerseys for every team on display in the crowd. I also enjoyed booing Greg Jennings but I don't think he heard me.

Nicholls: I would say three ways based on my friends and acquaintances: 1.) They are a fan so they love it, 2.) they say they have no interest at all but watch the Super Bowl, 3.) mock it with references to all the padding and helmets, but they say it to try and get a reaction so I ignore it as I know they just don't understand the greatest game on the planet.

Meilleur: In Canada most people are hockey fans, but there are a substantial amount of CFL fans. We have a long history with football and while it will never become our national sport, it certainly holds a place in most Canadian sports fans' hearts.

Torales: Here in Argentina, most people don´t like football. It's like soccer in U.S. In Paraguay (Asuncion, the capital), it's the same thing, but it can be worse. They think it's so stupid to watch any sport that you have to use your hands.

Vavasour: We are lucky that we get great TV coverage. In fact, it's likely better than most small market U.S. households. We get all nationally televised games (including Thursday Night), and then because of the regional set-up of our TV stations, we often get to pick up different feeds from large U.S. cities. The most common feeds we can get here in Canada (at least where I live) are: Boston, Detroit, Seattle, and Buffalo. I seek out the TV coverage maps each week to find out how I will watch the game.

Scullino: It isn't. Most people could (not) care less about it. They've heard of the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys. Some would know Joe Montana. Ask most men about it and they'd say it was slow, boring, and the padding makes the players soft. Remember, Australia's sport of choice is rugby. If you get knocked out, and don't play-on, you're considered soft.

Tone: In Canada, Football is viewed just like it is in America. Some are more into the CFL than the NFL, but the fan base existing is due to the closeness to Buffalo. College Football is not as big, but it is televised for big games or major schools.

APC: Since the country you live in might not televise their games, how do you go about watching the Packers play during the entire season?

Gudgeon: The Packers are probably televised on Sky TV 4-5 times during the regular season. For the others, I have had NFL Game Pass the last 3 years.

Nicholls: The coverage has really moved forward from the past so I will tell you what we have for the 2014 season: Thursday Night games, Saturday games, double header Sunday, all playoff games, and the Super Bowl live on Sky Sports. Channel 4 (which is a standard free channel in the UK) has Sunday Night Football live each week. Then either the BBC or Channel 4 will be the free channel that shows playoff highlights and the Super Bowl. MNF is live on British Eurosport which is part of the regular Sky package. All the deals expire after next season so it may move around, but the level of coverage is unlikely to drop. On top of this we have NFL Game Pass as an option. Sky Live games are blacked out for 24 hours, but other than that, you can watch any game live and then in the week following catch up on the rest in condensed form. So I never miss a Packers game.

Meilleur: A surprising number of games are televised live, but I won't miss any of the Packers' games. We purchase the Sunday Sports Package every season from our cable provider to ensure that we don't miss a single Packer moment.

Torales: Basically, here we have it in Spanish on ESPN Latin America and Fox Sports Latin America, but sometimes they don´t broadcast the Packers games. So I have NFL Game Pass and USTVNow, and you have to pay for both. I enjoy the games in English more than Spanish.

Vavasour: I have purchased the Sunday Ticket the last few seasons because I simply cannot do without watching the Pack play. Only big draw games (i.e. vs. Chicago or Dallas) are guaranteed to be on regular TV. If I want to see the Packers play the Browns or Chiefs, I have to pay for Sunday Ticket. Previous to Sunday Ticket I found myself streaming those games, but the quality was subpar and legality was always a question.

Scullino: In Australia, our cable TV provider is Foxtel. Foxtel has ESPN and ESPN 2 so we get every prime time Sunday and Monday night game live (channel 508). We also get SportsCentre, Mike and Mike, PTI, Around the Horn, NFL 32 etc...We have a free channel called OneHD that plays random weekly games too. This year, Channel 9, one of the big three networks has signed on to show the NFL as well. They brought Reggie Bush down here a few weeks ago as a promo. To watch Packer games specifically, I subscribe to NFL Game Pass. Its $130 but you get every single game live including NFL network 24/7. I can watch live Packer games in bed, at work, on public transport, on my iPhone, iPad, or on my big TV in the lounge room. I live for NFL Game Pass.

Tone: I am able to watch all Packers games on the NFL Package that televises all games. If they play in prime time, then we get NBC or whoever is broadcasting the game just like everyone else in the U.S.

Stay tuned for part two of the interview series tomorrow.